Pakistani Refugees In Kashmir Demand Rehabilitation Package

27 April 2008

Jammu: Pakistani refugees settled in Jammu and Kashmir demand a similar rehabilitation package as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week announced for the migrant Kashmiri Hindus. “There is nothing for the PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) refugees,” said Rajiv Chuni, leader of SOS, an organization working for the refugees who came down to Jammu in 1947 in the wake of the tribal invasion and India-Pakistan partition. “This is a mockery that our fate still remains undecided,” Chuni said. “If the prime minister thought it appropriate to have measures for resettlement of the Kashmiri Pandits in the land of their grandparents, we, too, are entitled to similar concessions and relief. “If we cannot be settled back in our homes, now in PoK, let’s be compensated adequately,” he demanded. Manmohan Singh, during his visit to the state Friday, announced a whopping Rs.1,600 crore (Rs.16 billion) package for the return, employment and rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Hindus, who left the Kashmir Valley in 1990 after an armed separatist movement erupted there. The Pakistani refugees, settled in the border belt of Jammu and Kathua districts, have been demanding citizenship rights in the state. They have been told that citizenship was not possible because of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, which prohibits non-permanent residents to vote, seek jobs and professional education or to purchase immovable property. The prime minister, however, has promised them they would get employment opportunities, admission to professional institutions outside the state and bank loans without the provision of land mortgage applying to them. Said one of the refugees Ram Lubhiya: “When our children don’t get the chance to study, how would they make it to the professional institutions or jobs.” Even the migrant Kashmiri Pandit organizations have found the PM’s package “inadequate”. They contend that the promised grant of Rs.750,000 or waiving of loans and continuation of the monthly relief amount have strings attached to them - their return to the Kashmir Valley where, they feel, the situation is yet to become conducive to their return.